From First Alliance’s Newsletter today (pastor Jeremy).
Into The Wild: The Rite to Follow–Without A Leash
Four leaders, ten students, 5 days, 53.71 miles, and 11,358’ of ascent in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness. This was last week’s effort to join in the mission to make disciples, more particularly to initiate ten students into discipleship.
If you want to see what it looked like, check out the video here, made by Jesse Seales on the van ride home (also, next Sunday morning Meredith Crockett will be sharing about the trip in both services). If you want to know the rationale behind the trip, keep reading. If you want to know the details of the trip, email me–I’ve already exceeded my word limit 🙂
“And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’…Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’” (Mt. 28:5-10).
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them…And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Mt. 28:16-20).
The death and resurrection of Jesus, the culmination of his ministry, was in (or just outside of) Jerusalem. Galilee was approximately 65 miles away. After the resurrection was announced the disciples had to walk 65 miles to hear the Great Commission, after which they would have to walk 65 miles back to Jerusalem commence with the mission (Acts 1-2). That’s 130 miles of walking to hear five verses of Scripture.
I doubt that the risen Christ had a momentary lapse of judgment in sending the disciples on an incredibly inconvenient detour en route to their mission, nor more specifically in assigning their mountaintop turnaround where the commission was given. In the first place, the crucifixion was a big surprise, the resurrection even bigger, so after three years of thinking they knew who Jesus was and what he was about, the disciples needed adequate time to reorient themselves to the reality of their Lord after such an traumatic time of disorientation. But perhaps more importantly, the mountain in Galilee was where it all began, when Jesus set them apart from the crowd and gave them the Sermon on the Mount, which is no doubt the content of “teaching them to obey all I have commanded.” Jesus brought them to the place where they learned what was the quality of a disciple before he sent them out to concern themselves with the quantity of disciples.
My concern is that the Church in America has begun to fret over and focus far too much on the latter to the neglect of the former. We want to multiply, but what exactly are we multiplying? I believe as much as any Christian in the free gift of God’s grace. However, I think we have often confused free grace with cheap grace (Bonhoeffer). Since grace is free, it is assumed, we mustn’t associate our faith with any costs, any discipline, any effort. But the fact is: grace is free only because we cannot afford it. Its value is, in fact, infinite, because it is based on the infinite worth of Jesus Christ.
Grace is spilt blood, not melted ice cream. We should acknowledge, therefore, that while there is nothing of worth we can offer in exchange for the grace of God it is only so because God is not looking for us to barter with him with little pieces of our lives and pocketbooks. The Gospel means that the stakes were raised from lambs of sacrifice on the altar to the Lamb of God on the cross. Ultimately, we are not responding to the command of God; we are responding to the death of God, the Life of the world. God thus revealed that he does not want parts of us—our deeds, our offerings, our tenth or our trying. He wants all of us: Life for life, all of Him for all of us. In Paul words, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your…spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).
My concern is that, in an effort to get them in the door, teenagers have been served up the melted ice cream gospel of youth programs throughout churches in our country, but to our dismay they have valued the gospel accordingly. It is no surprise, then, that there is a mass exodus out of the church of young people transitioning from high school to college. They will still passionately pursue education. They will engage in athletics. They will educate themselves on politics and the economy and social issues. That is, they will continue seeking to grow in the areas of life that have demanded effort, those areas of life where people seem to act as though there is something actually at stake. But as for the Church of Jesus Christ? Melted ice cream…
And yet, when the resurrection alarm clock rang, Jesus’ high school graduates were sent to walk into the sore legs of God’s grace. My goal with this trip was simple. I wanted to disorient a group of young Christian in order to reorient them to a life of following, which is another word for walking, for walking behind, and, in the case of the Christian, walking behind the Lamb who was led to the slaughter.
That feels like something. It feels costly. It feels painful, like real, physical pain. It demands effort, endurance, and a disciplined will. But we should expect no less from our young people as they respond to the call to discipleship. They are not responding to us anyway. “Deep cries out to deep,” and the “downcast soul” wants nothing more than the long walk up (Ps. 42:6-7). Indeed, a disciple’s feet have to become blistered before they can become beautiful: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good news of gladness, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns” (Isa. 52:7).
My prayer is that First Alliance would be a church community whose Sunday morning mountaintop worship is offered up on tired legs, a people who return each week by way of a discipleship detour, whose lives are inconvenienced by the law of love, indeed, a people with deep roots and blistered feet.
Stay tuned for more opportunities for these types of experiences. This is just one application of Steve’s vision to move our church from health to strength. There will be more to come. I hope you / your family will walk with us.